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Full text of "Hyde park"

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BOSTON 
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Digitized by the Internet Archive 

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Hyde Park 

BOSTON 200 NEIGHBORHOOD HISTORY SERIES 




Henry Adams, the nineteenth 
tury philosopher, said that the hi 
of America is not the history of I 
few, but the history of the many 
people of Boston's neighborhood: 
accepted the challenge of Adam 
statement to produce "people's 
tories" of their own communities 
Hundreds of Bostonians formed 
mittees in each of fifteen neighbo 
of the city, volunteering their tin 
the past year and a half to resea 
in libraries, search for photograj 
produce questionnaires, transcri 
tapes, assist in writing and editi: 
most important, act as interview 
and subjects of "oral history" res « 
These booklets are not tradition 
textbook histories, and we have : 
tempted to cull a statistical sam; N 
We have simply talked with ourj 
neighbors, people who remembc 
sometimes with fondness, someti 
with regret, but always with wis 
For each of us has his or her ow 
story to tell, and these stories ar 
to the development of our neigh 
hoods and our city. 



© 1976, The Boston 200 Corpor 
Boston 200 is the city's official progr 
to observe the Bicentennial of the 
American Revolution from April igy 
through December igj6. 

Kevin H. White, Mayor 
Katharine D. Kane, 

President, The Boston 200 Corporc 
1 Beacon Street 
Boston, Massachusetts 02108 

617-338-1775 



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■ • 

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HYDE PARK 



ime towns in our commonwealth, older and doubtless wiser 
an we, looked on and with mingled feelings of amusement 
id dismay, saw our young Samson shake his locks . . . But 
ough earnest and impetuous, we were not idiotic. We had an 
id to reach and bent towards it. 

— The Rev. Perley B. Davis in 1888 on the 20th 
anniversary of the incorporation of Hyde Park. 

RoNEERS settled Hyde Park; the kind with free 
>irits and courage to tame the wilderness. They came 
1 the mid- 1 800s to the pine forest beside the Mother 
rook at the same time kindred souls were pressing 
estvvard to chart the unknown plains. The Hyde 
ark homesteaders were a mere nine miles from the 
oston State House, but, like their western counter- 
irts, they were a world away. 

Today the world has shrunk. The sprawling corn- 
unity, comprising Boston's most distant neighbor- 
ed, is inhabited largely by office workers, profes- 
}nals and civil servants (including many policemen 
id firefighters) who commute daily to downtown jobs. 

The area's residents return at night to Cape Cod 



Houses and Garrison Colonials along Hyde Park 
Avenue and River Street, duplexes and triple-deckers 
in Readville and Sunnyside, and a sprinkling of fine 
mansions on Fairmount Hill. 

The citizens of Hyde Park, which is bounded by 
Dedham and the Stony Brook Reservation on the west 
and the Blue Hills of Milton on the east, have mixed 
feelings about their relationship with Boston. Some 
argue their community has suffered neglect since an- 
nexation to Boston in 191 2. Thirteen years ago, during 
the controversy over construction of the Southwest 
Expressway, there was a movement to secede, a move- 
ment which was revived in 1974 over the issue of court 
ordered busing of school children. 

Though the history of Hyde Park, dating from the 
Civil War era rather than colonial times, is over 100 
years shorter than that of most Bay State cities and 
towns, it does not lack for drama. During the second 
half of the 19th century, the community was home for 
fiery abolitionists and suffragettes, notably, the Grimke 
sisters, Angelina and Sarah. At Camp Meigs in Read^, 
ville, the first black regiment mustered for the Civil 
War was trained. A bas-relief by Augustus Saint- 
Gaudens commemorating Colonel Robert Gould 



x'ont cover: Workers at the F. W. Darling Co., ca. i8go 
iside cover: Angelina Grimke, ardent abolitionist and feminist 



1 



Shaw and the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Regiment 
stands opposite the State House. 

Before 1850, there was no Hyde Park — only five 
Irumlins, (hills formed by the glaciers) covered with 
ligh bush blueberries, pines and birches. A scattering 
)f farmhouses, no more than 10, and several mills, in- 
:luding a cotton mill owned by James Read, and the 
iumner Paper Mill, dotted the landscape near the 
•iver. An early historian, Edmund Davis, describes 
iumner Hall, built in 1 790 for William Sumner, as an 
mpressive edifice "in the midst of well-kept grounds 
ind fine orchards." There was also the "elegant, 
French cottage" of Congressman William S. Damrell, 
'an intense anti-slavery man, bold and fearless." 
NTearby was Muddy Pond Woods, where, according to 
Davis, "immersed in this maze of sylvan delights one 
lardly realizes he is within a few miles of metropolitan 
Mew England." 

In 1847 Henry Grew, a Boston dry goods importer, 
took a holiday excursion to the area with his wife. He 
found the countryside so compelling, he remained to 
build a house. "We stopped in the woods," said Grew, 
'and strolling about unexpectedly came to a point 
■vhere we were very much pleased with the view of the 
Blue Hills and the valley in between. "Of his new home, 
3rew said, "We are almost literally surrounded by 
voods. My friends in Boston are much surprised at my 
joing to such a wild and lonely place." 

The loneliness prevailed until 10 years later when 
1 23-year-old land developer from Orange, New 
Hampshire appeared on the scene. Alpheus P. Blake 
ind his Twenty Associates are credited with founding 
Hyde Park on Fairmount Hill, though it was not until 
\pril 28, 1868 that the town was officially incorpo- 
•ated. The community was named after London's 
Hyde Park by an Englishman, the Rev. Henry Lyman, 
>ne of Hyde Park's earliest settlers. 

Blake assembled a varied group to further his 
levelopment scheme and plans for the experimental 



subdivision, probably one of the first in the country, 
were hatched in a Boston boarding house. Among the 
associates were a blacksmith, a sea captain, a tailor, a 
fruit dealer, a milliner and a writing master. "They 
bought 100 acres at $200 an acre extending from what 
is Prospect Street all the way down to Neponset River," 
explained Adrian Eckberg in a recent presentation to a 
fifth grade class at the Henry Grew School. "They 
bought it from two farmers who lived on Brush Hill 
Road in Milton. The architect drew up a central plan 
so all 20 houses would be alike. They found it was more 
economical to have one set of plans for the carpenters 
and to buy materials for all 20 houses at once." 

The construction project did not go smoothly. 
Even before building began, several of the original 
partners became discouraged and pulled out after a 
tour of the site for which they were forced to walk two 
miles from Mattapan. The wildness of the terrain and 
the steepness of the hill made hauling lumber by team 
from Milton extremely difficult and at one point the 
project was almost abandoned. An account in an 1886 
issue of the Norfolk County Gazette tells how several 
families spent their first winter in unfinished homes. 
They shielded themselves against the cold by wearing 
overcoats to bed. "They were next to perishing," said 
the account. "When the ground was not frozen, the 
mud was ankle deep." 

The end of the Civil War spurred rapid-fire growth 
in the area and by 1867 lot prices were quadrupling in 
a few weeks time. The influx of new settlers brought 
rumblings for incorporation as an independent town. 
Residents complained of having no fire department, no 
street lights, poor schools and ungraded roads "having 
for their pavement stumps and roots of trees." School 
was held in halls, private houses and soldiers' barracks. 

The battle over incorporation was "hot and furi- 
ous" according to historian Edmund Davis. The resi- 
dents of Brush Hill Road, today noted for its fine es- 
tates and mansions, fought stubbornly to remain in 



3 




The first 

Board of Selectmen of 
the Town of Hyde Park, 186 



Milton. In the end a compromise was reached and 
Hyde Park took 1 300 acres from Dorchester, 800 from 
Dcdham and 700 from Milton, which was allowed to 
keep Brush Hill Road. 

Incorporation day was marked by fireworks, a 100 
gun salute and a rainbow at sunset. Hyde Park's in- 
dustry at that time consisted of a cotton mill, a woolen 
mill, a paper mill, a needle factory, an iron works and 
and car shops. 

"We have far more internal vitality than pertains 
to most towns so near a great metropolis. We are some- 
thing more than a mere sleeping room to Boston," 
said the Rev. Perley B. Davis in a speech at the town's 
20th anniverary celebration, in 1888. 

Part of this vitality stemmed from a group of orig- 
inal thinkers who cultivated a uniquely modern social 



and literary consciousness in the community. One o 
the most prominent of this breed was a New Hamp I 
shire woman named Mehitable Sunderland. Thougl 
she did not come to Hyde Park until her fiftieth year 
after her three daughters were grown, she lived to givt I 
44 years of service to the community. Mehitable wa; 
Hyde Park's first doctor and an activist in women 
rights and black rights. She moved to the town wit! 
her daughter and son-in-law in 1857, the year afte: 
the Twenty Associates began their subdivision. 

Soon after her arrival Mehitable struck out on hei 
own, buying land on Williams Avenue for Si 00. Sh<, ;he 
eventually built 16 houses and rented some of them t( it 
to Negroes. "She acutely felt the plight of Negroes anc 
realized the difficulties they faced in obtaining suitable I 
housing," explained Elizabeth Freeman in a lecturtfn 



[ 

31 

fr; 
::. 
bt 



r 



4 



Defore a Hyde Park school group. "She was also one of 
:hose old time Methodists who thought cards were the 
nvention of the devil. Every Friday night she hitched 
ap her horse and buggy and went around to collect the 
-ents. If she found any evidence of card playing, the 
:enant was evicted." 

A newspaper account of the period describes Me- 
litable's medical talents: "Her plaid hood and gray 
;loak were a welcome sight where the raging fever or 
the scarlet spots of measles held sway. Nor could even 
:hat tabooed horror, smallpox, frighten this intrepid, 
sympathizing woman. On Fairmount alone, she heard 
:he first cries of 50 little pairs of lungs and in the coun- 
:ry roundabout she welcomed probably 300 new cit- 
zens into the world. Her practice extended to Dor- 
;hester, Dedham and Milton." 

On March 7, 1870, Mehitable led a band of 42 
-iyde Park women and their male escorts in a sym- 
bolic act which received nationwide notoriety. Car- 
ving bouquets of flowers, the protestors marched 
hrough a driving snowstorm to the town polling place 
vhere the ladies dropped their ballots into a special 
eceptacle. Historian Davis notes it was "feared that 
inmanly measures might be adopted" to stop women, 
iowever, town moderator Sylvanus Cobb, Jr., a nov- 
list, "produced calm on the floor . . . and the ladies 
dvanced without further molestation." It was the first 
uffrage demonstration in Massachusetts and a cata- 
yst for the many which were later staged across the 
ountry. 

Hyde Park women were given the right to vote for 
town committee member long before there was gen- 
ral women's suffrage, according to Elizabeth Free- 
nan. Mehitable, she said, never missed casting her bal- 
3t even when in her nineties. During her last years, 
tie lived with her granddaughter, Ada Cooper Sheehy 
t 60 Central Avenue. "She was able to be up and 
bout." said Mrs. Freeman, "and was often seen 
/alking on the veranda in nice weather." At her death 
1 1 90 1 she was Hyde Park's oldest resident. 



Mehitable was not the only freedom fighter in 
Hyde Park; there were the famous Grimke sisters and 
Angelina Grimke's husband, Theodore Weld. The 
Grimkes were the daughters of a wealthy South Caro- 
lina judge and planter and had experienced slavery 
first hand during their childhood. Sarah once wrote of 
seeing "a Human head stuck up high on a pole" and a 
runaway punished by having to wear a heavy iron col- 
lar with three long prongs. The runaway's front tooth 
had been extracted to mark her and she had received a 
severe whipping. 

The sisters later moved north where they became 
Quakers and outspoken abolitionists. In 1838, a full 10 
years before the Seneca Falls Convention,* Angelina 
won a place in history as the first American woman to 
address a legislative body. Her appearance at the Bos- 
ton State House drew huge crowds anxious to see the 
woman who had been called "devil-ina" in the news- 
papers and who had been castigated in a pastoral letter 
from the Council on Congregational Ministers. Pre- 
senting an anti-slavery petition signed by 20,000 wom- 
en, Angelina skillfully appealed for the liberation of 
both slaves and females. 

"I stand before you as a moral being," she de- 
clared. "And as a moral being I feel that I owe it to the 
suffering slave and to the deluded master, to my coun- 
try and to the world, to do all that I can to overturn a 
system of complicated crimes built upon the broken 
hearts and prostrate bodies of my countrymen in 
chains and cemented by the blood, sweat and tears of 
my sisters in bonds." 

Addressing herself to the plight of women, she de- 
manded of the largely-male audience, "Are we aliens 
because we are mothers, wives and daughters of a 
mighty people? Have women no country? No interests 
staked in the public weal?" 

The Grimkes and Weld, who like the sisters was an 
ardent abolitionist, did not settle in Hyde Park until 
many years later when their youthful fervor had 
cooled. They lived quietly there in the years following 



where women organized to demand rights as citizens. 



5 



Snow scene 
on Water Street, i8g$ 




he Civil War, tending to local affairs and leaving the 
trenuous public fight to others. The sisters never grew 
oo old, however, to assist the cause they so dearly 
oved, and they participated in the 1870 suffrage dem- 
mstration and door-to-door petition drives. 

Frequent visitors at their home were William Lloyd 
iarrison, John Greenleaf Whittier and Henry Wads- 
vorth Longfellow. Weld was prominent in Hyde Park 
ommunity affairs, organizing the local Women's 
iuffrage League in 1887. He served as a member of the 
acal school committee and as an officer of the town, 
nd helped found Hyde Park's free public library. 
3 Sarah, who never married, died at 81 in 1873. Her 
V ister followed her six years later. Weld lived on to 

» The late 1 800s marked a period of literary flour- 
Jj hing in Hyde Park. It was then that the "sunset 



painter" John J. Enneking had his studio in the town 
and that Mrs. J. Wentworth Payson hosted literary 
evenings at her home at 136 Fairmount Avenue. Her 
salon, called the Wentworth Club, was noted for its 
"high intellectual tone" and for drawing literati, 
artists and leading citizens from across the country and 
abroad. 

Hyde Park grew rapidly during these years as 
waves of Irish, Italian and Jewish immigrants flooded 
into downtown Boston. Those seeking breathing room 
looked to the outskirts and discovered Hyde Park. 
From a village of 1,512 in 1887, the community had 
ballooned to a population of 15,000 by 1912. The 
attractions were the jobs in the mills along the Nepon- 
set and the promise of country houses with grassy 
yards to replace inner-city tenements on concrete 
alleys. 



arah Grimke 



7 



Paul's Bridge 



David Lasker, then a boy of ten, moved with his 
family to Hyde Park in 1905. They gladly left a crowd- 
ed East Boston. 

"I remember my father saying to my mother, 
'We're going to live in Hyde Park some day. I cer- 
tainly don't want the children being brought up where 
we are now.' So on the 25th of July, the moving van 
drove up to the house at 1 1 6 Everett Street and started 
packing for the long trip. We went down Southberry, 
Atlantic Avenue, up Kneeland Street and Washington 
Street, through Dudley Street, Hyde Park Avenue to 
Oakland Street, down Harvard Street to Wood Ave- 
nue to 22 Parker Street. There were only two houses 
on the road in those days; 9 Parker Street where the 
brink family lived — Mr. Brink was a farmer — and 22 

8 



Parker, which was a new house just built. My father 
was overjoyed with the beauty of the whole area, th< 
forest land, so different from East Boston . . . Every- 
thing was woods." 

Clem Norton's relatives settled in Hyde Park be- 
cause they found work there. Norton, now 80, has beer 
a Hyde Park resident all his life. A former city council- 
man and member of the Boston School Committee, h<! 
served for many years as superintendent of Common-* 
wealth Pier. 

"My ancestors were Irish Americans who came ii> 
the 1 850s during the potato famine. They got a job in 
the mill so they settled in Hyde Park. My grandmothei 
and grandfather both had to work and my parents, too* 
For small pay. But what attracted them to Hyde ParW 

Advertisement for a Hyde Park box manufacturer, i8g$ 



JOHN T. ROBINSON & CO., 

MANUFACTURERS OF 

Paper Box and Card Cutting Maclimery. 

SPECIALTIES. 

Power a xi) Foot Corner Cuttkhs. Kojiixsox's Patext Scorer. 

IfOlXl) AND OVA I. CL'TTKKS. KoTARV STRIPPING Machines. 

Notary Cahd Ci:ttkjss. Patent Ihox Frame Shears. 

Tui'MitEits, Etc. 



SPECIAL MACHINES MADE TO ORDER. 

Shears rt'fncotl. Scoring Rolls Grouiul by Special Machinery. 




ROBINSON SCORING AND CUTTING MACHINE. 



1 




The Sturtevant Blower Works 



was the American Tool Machine Shop. I was born 
right in front of it on Hyde Park Avenue. 

"We had a lot of mills but they're all gone now. 
The main car shops for the New Haven Railroad, the 
first paper factory in the country on River Street — 
they were all in Hyde Park." 

Michael Walsh, a rare book dealer for Goodspccd's 
on Beacon Street, was born in Ireland. His mother 
came to America ahead of her children and sent for 
them when she had raised the money. 

"It's a story that's fairly common to the Irish," he 
explains. "The Irish girls came out and worked as 
maids and cooks with the Yankee families. Then, when 



they thought they had saved enough money, they wen 
home and got married. That was the case with m 
mother. After her marriage and the birth of her fou 
children, she returned to America and earned enou 
money to bring her family over. We all came iroi 
Ireland in 1902, right to Hyde Park." 

Walsh's father "got a job the second day he was il 
the country. They were putting in a sewer on Wooi 
Avenue and it was all pick and shovel then. Ther! 
weren't any steamshovels or things like that. He wen 
out and got a pick and shovel job. He worked te 
hours a day, six days a week, Si. 50 a day. And the 
worked." 



10 



Twenty-four-year-old Joe Langille, who works in 
Hyde Park's Little City Hall, is the grandson of an 
Italian railroad man. "He came to America to work," 
says Langille. "He was an only child so he was kind of 
free to go where he wanted. In Italy there was some 
type of relationship between his family and my grand- 
mother's family. He sent for her, saying, 'Come on 
over; if I like you, I'll pay for your trip, if not, you 
have to pay for it yourself.' She liked him. He was good 
looking and she married him and they settled in Hyde 
Park." 

The community is today "quite a melting pot," 
according to George Merry, a lifelong resident who is 
State House reporter for the Christian Science Moni- 
tor. "We have a very large Italian population, a good 
sized Irish population and all groups seem to get along. 
There are some blacks and there are more coming in. 
Of course, we've always had blacks in the community. 
I've had some black friends whose family has lived 
here since the 1870s. We also have a pretty large Polish 
population and there is a Polish Catholic church. Re- 
cently older people have moved here in large numbers 
from the Mattapan section. Jewish people and others, 
too. There are a lot more Jewish people now than there 
used to be." 

One of the oldest black families in Hyde Park was 
that of James Monroe Trotter. "He was one of those 
who trained at Fort Meigs with Robert Shaw," ex- 
plains Nancy Hannan, a lawyer who is president of the 
Hyde Park Historical Society. "He was the first col- 
ored officer of the American army at anytime any 
place. And it was because of his training at Fort Meigs 
that he came and lived in Hyde Park. James Monroe 
was a minister and then he entered the Union Army 
and became a commissioned officer. When he left the 
army, he returned to the ministry. His son, Leland, 
was a newspaper editor who rose to national promi- 
nence." 

As different ethnic groups arrived in Hyde Park 
they established their own churches. "It started out as 



ireas 



ingle 

hit 



a Protestant town," says Mrs. Hannan. "The Twentj 
Associates, the land developers, were mostly Protestant) 
But shortly after they started, two or three of then 
sold out. Then they sold to others and so forth. Very 
early there were several Catholics in Hyde Park, whicl 
was a little unusual for a small town. Then, of course 
the mills brought in the Polish. The Jewish community 
has never been large but we've always had one. Ir 
1905 they formed a Jewish congregation and in 190^ 
they built their present synagogue. All the Protestanl 
denominations are represented here." 

Since the turn of the century, Hyde Park has beer 
predominantly Catholic. There are currently five 
Catholic churches in the community. Years ago, Hyde 
Park had well-defined neighborhoods whose bounda- 
ries were drawn on ethnic and religious lines. Today 
the neighborhoods are less distinct. 

"The Jewish area is what they call Stonybrook and 
Georgetown," says Joe Langille. "Most of the people 
there have moved from Mattapan. The Italian area is 
Hyde Park Avenue, Glenwood Avenue and parts of 
Readville. The Polish people are near their church. 
The Irish are kind of all over, maybe mainly on Fair- 
mount Hill. It used to be if you weren't Protestant 
you never had a chance up there. Today it's changed. 

"Fairmount is where the wealthy live — a few doc- 
tors, many lawyers, executives of businesses. A lot of 
city officials up there, too. The mayor's administrator 
lives there and the top assistant district attorney. The 
city licenser lives there and state Rep. Michael Feeney. 
In fact, he lives next door to former City Treasurer 
Daniel Driscoll." 

David Lasker has fond memories of "long coasting 
episodes" on Fairmount Hill. "You'd get on a sled at 
the top of Fairmount Hill and Prospect Street, and 
coast all the way down to Fairmount Avenue across the 
grade crossing to Pierce Street . . . The gate tender 
would stand there in amazement, particularly when he 
saw the train coming from Readville." 

Lasker remembers other sections. "There was 



appe 
lorri; 
here 
Ri 

Jack 
feigs 

it;. 
lade 
ivera 

1 

[i 

icing 
lite 1 



12 



Lithograph 
of an elegant 
Hyde Park Home, i8go 




iugby, from Wood Avenue down through the wooded 
ireas there. Oakland Street coming to Mattapan. 
\blewood, Forest Hills, Readville, Climehurst and 
Sunnyside. In those days, we youngsters knew every 
ingle section. Today we live in Hyde Park and that's 
\\ it is, Hyde Park." 

"Sunnyside," muses Fr. David M. Burke, pastor 
»f St. Pius X Church, "nobody seems to know the ori- 
;in of that except that those of us who lived there felt 
he sun always shone over there regardless of what was 
tappening in the rest of Hyde Park. Then there was 
^orriganville, named after a family that had lived 
here for generations called Corrigan." 

Readville is perhaps best known for its race track 
hough during the Civil War it was distinguished as the 
ite of Fort Meigs, training ground for the war's first 
•lack regiment. "After the war, they broke up Camp 
deigs," says Mrs. Irene Reynolds, a long-time resident 
f the neighborhood. "The barracks were sold for a 
oken fee and moved to different streets where people 
lade houses out of them. In 1923 there were still 
;veral houses left that had been built from the bar- 
acks. 

"The race track was still around too. It was a sulky 
rack and I think the last sulky race was in 1924. Sulky 
acing was really a society thing in those days. The 
lite of Boston would come out.' They'd run special 



trains from South Station and there was a spur off the 
railroad so you could get off right at the track. I've 
seen pictures of ladies with parasols and long skirts 
getting off the train. The local people did not object to 
the track. It was supposed to be the best turf track in 
the country. Something really went out of the town 
when it closed. When they started making the Sumner 
Tunnel, they dumped all the clay on the turf and made 
an automobile race track. The people protested very 
strongly. It brought in a terrible crowd, a very dif- 
ferent crowd. And there was dust . . . The original set- 
tlers of Readville expected it to be sort of a bedroom 
town to Boston, like Milton is today. But then they 
built the Readville car shops and the locomotive shops 
and that brought in a different group of people — 
laborers, workers." 

Even more so than in other communities, the rail- 
road tracks were the dividing lines for the neighbor- 
hoods of Hyde Park. "Fairmount and Sunnyside were 
the other side of the tracks, so to speak," explains 
George Merry. "Hyde Park is made an island, a com- 
plete island, by railroad tracks. To one side of us be- 
tween Mattapan and Hyde Park is the midland divi- 
sion of the New York Central Railroad. That comes 
along near the paper mill and goes along the river over 
beyond River Street. It continues to Readville where 
it joins with the main line of the New York Central 



13 



A postcard of the Readville Railroad tracks under a starry night 



which goes from South Station to New York. Those 
tracks are over on the other side of Hyde Park Av enue 
and behind them is Sunnyside." 

The railroad and street car lines have been a major 
influence on Hyde Park's development, attracting both 
industry and settlers. Easy and cheap access to down- 
town Boston encouraged many to live in Hyde Park 
and commute to the city for work. 

"There's been a great change in the railroads," 
laments Daniel Driscoll, the former city treasurer. 
"Wars ago the popular way to go to work was to go 
down to the railroad station and get on a train. You'd 
buy a book of eight tickets for a dollar. It was a lovely 
way to ride. You'd always get a seat — unlike today- 
going by rapid transit. 

"Those were the days of the trolleys," remembers 



Ml 

iai 



80-year-old Michael Walsh. "They ran from Mattapa 
to Brockton and from Mattapan to the Blue Hills. II f 
was a lovely ride along Blue Hill Avenue in the opei 
cars. That was the way we spent Sundays. There wasn' 
much else for kids to do. If you had the fare, you\ 
take the open trolley right to Blue Hills to Houghton' 
Pond, and swim. Then you'd walk up the Blue Hills 01 
the pond side and come over the top and down an< 
they had a band concert from four to six. They used t< 
advertise a nickel from Mattapan to Arlingtoi 
Heights." 

"There were a lot of trolley lines," agrees Georg< ei! 
Merry. "Around the turn of the century they woulc 1 
take you almost anywhere. Some went up River Stree D 
all the way to Dedham and connected to other line 
there. You could ride to Wcstwood which is quite i 



Ivc 



•4 



listance from here. As late as 1948 we had streetcar 
ines running from Hyde Park Avenue and Cleary 
square to Forest Hills." 

One Hyde Park to Boston commuter, according to 
1 story told by Clem Norton, cleverly used his time on 
he trolleys to win himself a job at the Boston Globe. 
'The father of Clifton Bantry Carvery," says Norton, 
'was a carpenter at the Chickering Piano factory 
vhich is still over in the South End. He was born with 
.n instinct for the newspaper business even though he 
lad always worked as a carpenter. Each day he would 
o through the train asking the passengers what was 
lappening in their community. For years he sent 
ttle handwritten notes to the Globe and for years he 
ot no reply. Then one day he talked to a Dedham 
anker who told him an employee had stolen a lot of 
noney from the bank. 

'"Well, what's going to happen,' he asked. 'Have 
hey said anything yet?' The reply was 'No, they're 
oing to meet tonight.' The father said nothing but 
;ft work early and secretly listened in on the bank 
leeting. When he had got the whole story, it was ten 
t night, he rushed across the street, ordered a carriage 
t Raymond's Carriage and hurried to the Globe. 
. "They looked at the story and later when they 
xind it was okay they asked Carvery what he did for a 
ying. He said, 'I'm a carpenter in the Chickering 
fiano Factory.' 'And how much do you make,' they 
sked. He was then earning something like $12 a week, 
p they said, 'We will give you $25 if you'll come with 
s.' And he did." 

Carvery later got his son, Clifton, a job at the Bos- 
m Post. "Clifton was a very nice little man — didn't 
eigh 100 pounds," remembers Norton. "Very deaf, 
oor eyesight and he worked until four in the morning 
n the Post. There were no electric cars coming to 
[yde Park at that hour so he'd get as far as Forest 
[ills, which was four miles away, and winter and sum- 
ler, he'd run all the way to Hyde Park." 



Today most Hyde Park residents depend on the 
bus and rapid transit to get into Boston, according to 
Father Burke. "They have one train a day," says Fr. 
Burke. "But most people use the MBTA to Forest 
Hills. When we were youngsters, you'd grab the street- 
car in Cleary Square and be on Summer Street in half 
an hour. Of course, the picture has changed. This is 
one reason why people are thinking of getting out of 
Hyde Park. And then, of course, the tax rate is so high 
in the City of Boston." 

Since Hyde Park voted to annex itself to Boston in 
191 1 community residents have been debating the 
merits of the move. 

"A lot of people thought it was a mistake," says 
Merry. "Even today, you will find some old time 
people who feel they have not gotten the services we 
would have gotten. The argument was that we would 
get much better schools and everything would be bet- 
ter. As a matter of fact, things didn't always work out 
quite that well. For example, all the days I was attend- 
ing public elementary school, the buildings were three 
and four story wooden, fire-trap types. They're all 
gone now, either burned down or replaced, but for a 
long time, back into the mid-50's, we had the schools 
that were in existence (and not new) when Boston an- 
nexed Hyde Park. There were some people that didn't 
like that." 

"They felt as if this was a fringe of the city," agrees 
Father Burke, "and that that was about all we got 
from the city — fringe benefits. It was a sore spot for a 
lot of older people. As a matter of fact, many people 
are nowadays beginning to agitate to split the town 
away from the city and return to a separate township. 
They feel the town made responsible for itself would be 
far better off economically, socially and culturally." 

According to Mrs. Nancy Hannan, whose family 
came to Hyde Park in the early 1930s, annexation 
might not have occurred had the economic boost from 
World War I come sooner. "There was a recession in 



[5 



the country in 191 2 and the Hyde Park industries were 
slowing down. But these industries would also pick up 
again when the war came." 

Clem Norton was 17 at the time of annexation. He 
remembers, "there was a big, big fight and the various 
religions got into it. The Protestant churches were 
against joining Boston. The Catholic Church was for 
it. And Hyde Park was predominantly Catholic." 

A prime mover for annexation, according to David 
Lasker, was Robert Bleakie, owner of the Bleakie & 
Co. Woolen Mill. "He became interested in what he 
called "greater goals for Hyde Park'" says Lasker, 
"and he suggested a vote to annex. He said 'you have 
so much to gain by it. You're going to be a part of a 
metropolitan city.' And in 1910 Boston was the fourth 
largest city in population in the United States. 

"Many people were very much impressed at the 
enthusiasm Bleakie had shown. So on the first Tuesday, 
following the first Monday in November, 191 [, the 
people voted 2 to 1 in favor of annexation. In spite of 
the fact that Hyde Park was about Sio million in debt, 
the City of Boston was willing to absorb it because of 
the huge income in taxes it would get from the facto- 
ries here. There were about 30 different kinds of facto- 
ries here, so it was a boon to Boston. Mayor John F. 
Fitzgerald in Waverly Hall promised the citizens of 
Hyde Park the entire world. We were hopeful the 
mayor and city fathers would keep their word, but all 
we got was a municipal building in 1921." 

There are some, however, among them Boston 
Fireman Richard Baldwin, and his wife Lora, who 
protest it would be foolhardy for Hyde Park to divorce 
itself from Boston. "I think a lot of people don't realize 
what is involved to actually start all over again," says 
Mrs. Baldwin. "The taxes would rise because you 
would have to re-establish every service we get from 
the city, such as fire and police protection, schools, 
every single thing and it would take years." 

Hyde Park is today the largest precinct in Boston, 
according to Father Burke. Its population numbers 



Tik 



about 38,000, he says. Industry, which took advantag 
of water power from nearby rivers, was once an in 
portant influence in the community but over the yeai 
its significance has waned. In recent decades the bi 
employer has been government. 

"There are cotton mills, up at the old mill pond, 
says Father Burke. "They no longer operate but man 
of the people in years gone by — my older brothers, fc 
example — they worked in those cotton mills. Toda 
most people work in the city of Boston and commut 
In. This is one reason people feel Hyde Park has lost i 
individuality — because people are Boston-orientec 
they just think in terms of Boston and not of their ow 
town. There is not much industry left in Hyde Pari 
Westinghouse still employs a large number. But ou 
side of that, it is mostly into Boston. Many people wh 
live here are on the Boston police force, or teach in th 
city schools. I think people have civil service jobs be 
cause of the security. There are also a lot of politicians 

Clem Norton is one of those who jumped at th 
chance to enter government. "The minute I got ol 
enough, I took a civil service exam and landed as 
clerk at Commonwealth Pier. That was in 191 3 and 
was there for 40 years. I was head of the pier for year: he 
Civil service jobs were better than working in th 
factories. In the old days the factories didn't pay we 
and with civil service you got a good pension." 

After finishing grammar school, Norton worke 
days and attended night school and eventually Suffol ]•;■■ 
Law School. He helped pay tuition for his two younge cr. 
brothers who went to Harvard in dentistry and med 
cine. One later became head of Boston State Hospital 

"Those were the days," recalls Michael Walsh ^ 
"when more than half the kids that graduated fron ^ 
grammar school didn't go on to high school. The^ 
went to work. It was usually a case of having to worl ict . 
to help support the family. I was the oldest. I neve ^ 
went to high school. None of my brothers and sister 5^ 



went to high school. 



!i 



Walsh has been working since he was 1 5 at Gooc b 



16 



Tileston Hollingsworth Mills 
now Diamond International 



peed's, the Boston rare book store. He has been there 
or 65 years and specializes in American history. "I got 
he job," says Walsh, "because my mother took in 
vashing and I used to cart the wash back and forth. 
The man I did it for worked for Goodspeed, and they 
leeded a boy." 

George Merry graduated from high school in 1944. 
iut during his junior and senior years, he worked after 
chool at Sturtevant's, a fanblower and turbine facto- 
y, bought in 1945 by Westinghouse. 

"Quite a lot of us worked in the offices," he remem- 
ers, "It was the thing to do then. We worked as office 
oys, typists and clerks." 

Besides Sturtevant's, there were a number of other 
ictories along the river for water power. "Mother 
rook," explains Merry, "was a manmade canal dug 
jmetime in the middle 1800s. It connects the Charles 
aver and the Neponset. In effect, everything inside 
lat, is part of a great, big Boston island, because the 



Neponset flows to Boston Harbor and the Charles flows 
into the Neponset." Allis Chalmers and another old 
factory burned down, according to Merry, but the 
Tileston and Hollingsworth Paper Mill on River Street 
is still in existence. "It makes a very fine quality paper 
for calendars and is one of the really old operations in 
the community." 

Many youths trained for jobs in the mills and facto- 
ries through a special five-year vocational course at 
Hyde Park High School. "It's quite unique," says 
Merry. "All during high school you spend part time 
working in some type of industrial work and when you 
get through with your schooling, you've also learned a 
trade." 

"The average income here," according to Father 
Burke, "is in the $13,000 range, which today is not 
very high. Many of our women work." 

Hyde Park has been heavily Democratic for 50 
years. "The town remained Republican until 1924 



i7 



during the first Al Smith campaign," reports Daniel 
Driscoll. "Then Frank Donohue, a superior court 
judge, organized and registered a lot of people who 
had not previously registered to vote. Most of them 
happened to be Democrats, so he turned the town al- 
most single handed from Republican to Democrat." 

"There were always enough Hyde Park politi- 
cians," says Walsh. "But they never got too much in 
the way of favors because the number of votes here 
didn"t count. It wasn't like South Boston and Charles- 
town and Dorchester. But now it's the biggest ward in 
the United States. State Representative Michael Paul 
Feeney is the senior man in the legislature. He was 
first elected in 1938 and he's been elected continuously 
since. He knows his way around."' 

"After he was elected," says Driscoll, "he wanted 
something to do. I had heard three or four children 
had drowned in the river so I said, 'Paul, why don't 
you fence in the Neponset?' He got the bills through 
and he lived on that politically for about 25 years. It 
was a good idea and one that appealed to the legis- 
lature." 

"Feeney's somewhat of a conservative," says Mer- 
ry, "He's not in a leadership position because when he 
made his grab for power it was the wrong time and he 
was passed over. But he's still very much there. He's 
done a great deal for the community in terms of getting 
traffic lights in and things like that, and he knows how 
to make the political process work for him and the 
community." 

Hyde Park is run by the mayor of the City of Bos- 
ton and the City Council, of which one member, 
Joseph Tierney, lives in Fairmount. The distance of 
the government from the community has alienated 
some people, according to Joe Langille. "They're kind 
of just sitting back and wondering who their friend is," 
he says. 

Police coverage is one example of the problem, 
according to Father Burke. "The district here has to 
cover West Roxbury and Roslindale and Hyde Park, 



which is an enormous area. They don't have enoug 
men to care for that size district. When we were kic 
growing up, we needed only two policemen and vs 
knew them inside out. This prevented a lot of prol 
lems, because if they told us to get home in a hurry ( 
else they'd tell our fathers, we knew they knew 01 
fathers and they'd do just that. 

"Nowadays, of course, this isn't so. I would thir 
a very small number of the police at this station ai 
from the town. Therefore, they don't know the youn; 
sters the way the policemen used to. The result is the 
have more problems with the youngsters now, right i 
the center of Cleary Square. We never had youngste 
hanging around there before." 

Cleary Square today has problems of its own, ac 
cording to Father Burke. "In its day," he recalls, " 
was a tremendous shopping area. People used to com 
from Roslindale, from Milton and from Dedham t 
shop. Now, of course, there are the shopping center 
And shops in the square are continually closing up, c 
opening for three months and then closing." 

Kennedy's, one of Boston's major clothing chai 
stores, began in Hyde Park. "Mr. Kennedy lived o 
Central Avenue," explains Michael Walsh. "He star 
ed with a pack and went from house to house. His stor 
here was a fine store. Hardly anyone in Hyde Par 
would think of going for clothes or shoes anywhet 
else. If you lived outside of walking distance, he woul 
give you carfare. It was rather a big point in thos 
days, even if carfare was only a nickel." 

Today, according to Langille, downtown Hyd >: 
Park has "lost its community value somewhat" bd p 
cause residents do most of their shopping and bankin 
at the American Legion Highway shopping center, th il 1 
Stop & Shop, the Dedham Mall and the Dedhar 
Plaza. "They sleep here but they do their busine; 
elsewhere," says Langille. 

Father Burke talks of the small groceries whic 
characterized the Hyde Park he grew up in. "We use Ide: 
to love the neighborhood stores and the guys that ra 



k 
w 
m 
ton 



18 




Cleary Square 
turn of the century 



:hem because they were awfully good to us kids. They 
cnew everybody in the area and were sort of like the 
amily doctor. During the Depression, some of the 
itore owners used to carry people. They did it willingly 
because they knew the families and they knew that as 
oon as the family had the money they would be paid. 
Where could you do that today?" 

The problems of urbanization, including the issue 
)f forced busing to achieve racial integration, have 
jrought more changes, according to Father Burke. 
'As a result of all this, some people no longer have 
heir roots firmly imbedded here, which means, of 
:ourse, they don't care for the town as much as the 
)lder people. For example, they can drive around 
bleary Square and see this poor municipal building so 



dilapidated now and it doesn't bother them at all. But 
for those of us who still have a great deal of affection 
for the town, it's very disturbing." 

Joe Langille is confident, however, that the major- 
ity of Hyde Park's young people are facing problems 
realistically, and continue to identify with their neigh- 
borhood. "Most of my friends from high school went 
on to college or into the service or got married. Once 
they're married and have families, most of them settle 
back here. They really have a great deal of community 
feeling." 

Father Burke sums up the feelings of many Hyde 
Park people. 

"This has been home to me. It's still home, and I 
have a great deal of fondness for it." 



19 



OUUT5 8c SHOES. 




Project Staff 



Kat ie Kenneally, project coordinator, editor-in-chief 
Anne Millet, writer, copy editor 
Susan Wick, interviewer, writer 
Jan Coras ii, photographic editor 
Eugene W a l l a c e, neighborhood coordinator 
Harron Ellenson, director Boston 200 
Michael and Winifred Bixler, typography 



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The experience and insights of many people contributed to the making 
of this history. We would like to thank especially Nancy Hannan, president of the Hyde Park 
Historical Society and chairman of the Hyde Park Bicentennial Committee, for many hours 
of consultation; Margery Morgan Mason, Boston Architectural Center, designer of the neigh- 
borhood exhibit; Mrs. Belle Levin and the staff of the Hyde Park Branch Library; Nadine 
Hathaway; Mary Whalen, teacher, and the Advanced Fifth Grade Class at the Henry Grew 
School; and the following participants: Lora Baldwin, Richard M. Baldwin, Sally Baler, Fr. 
David M. Burke, Daniel Driscoll, Adrian E. Eckberg, Elizabeth Freeman, Frances Johnnene, 
David Lasker, Joe Langille, George Merry, Virginia Morely, Helen Morgan, Clement Norton, 
Irene Reynolds, Grace Sheridan, Monsignor Stanislaus Sypek, and Michael Walsh. 

PHOTO CREDITS: Photographs were used courtesy of some of the people listed above and the 
Print Department of the Boston Public Library, St. Adalbert's Church, the Boston Globe, the 
Hyde Park Tribune, Diamond International Corporation, and the Schlesinger Library, Harvard 
College. 

SPONSORS: The Boston 200 Neighborhood Histories Project was made possible through the 
support of: The Blanchard Foundation, the Godfrey M. Hyams Trust, the Massachusetts 
Bicentennial Commission, Workingmens Co-operative Bank, and the people of the City of 
Boston. 



Boston enjoys an international reputation as the birthplace of our American 
Revolution. Today, as the nation celebrates its 200th anniversary, that struggle 
for freedom again draws attention to Boston. The heritage of Paul Revere, Sam 
Adams, Faneuil Hall and Bunker Hill still fire our romantic imaginations. 

But a heritage is more than a few great names or places — it is a culture, 
social history and, above all, it is people. Here in Boston, one of our most cher- 
ished traditions is a rich and varied neighborhood life. The history of our neigh- 
borhood communities is a fascinating and genuinely American story — a story 
of proud and ancient peoples and customs, preserved and at the same time 
transformed by the American urban experience. 

So to celebrate our nation's birthday we have undertaken to chronicle 
Boston's neighborhood histories. Compiled largely from the oral accounts of 
living Bostonians, these histories capture in vivid detail the breadth and depth 
of our city's complex past. They remind us of the most important component 
of Boston's heritage — people. which is, after all,what the Bicentennial is all about. 



Kevin H. White, Mayor 




Boston 200 u